Zionist Union splits amid surprise announcement from Labor Party chairman

January 2, 2019 by JNS
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Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay issued an unexpected announcement on Tuesday that he would dissolve his partnership with Hatnua chair Tzipi Livni.

Head of the Zionist Union party Avi Gabbay and head of opposition Tzipi Livni during a statement in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on January 1, 2019. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

At a Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset, Gabbay surprised everyone including Livni, who was sitting at the dais, by stating that the “smart public” had become disillusioned with their partnership.

“I still believe in cooperation, in joining forces and uniting a large camp committed to change,” Gabbay said, with Livni just feet away. “But successful pacts require friendship, agreement, and loyalty to the chosen path. It does not exist in this partnership.”

Zionist Union MKs said Gabbay did not discuss his decision with them prior to the move.

Zionist Union was founded in 2015, as a partnership between Israel’s long-established Labor Party, and Livni’s Hatnua party. Gabbay announced that moving forward, the party would revert back to Labor.

Following the surprise announcement, Israeli media are reporting that Gabbay continued to rail against Livni to his colleagues, saying “I only got crap from her. I let her lead the opposition, and she had nothing positive to say about me.”

The combined party was the largest sitting in opposition to the government. Gabbay took over leadership of the joint party in 2018 from Isaac Herzog, who recently was named Chairman of the Jewish Agency. Gabbay was unable to hold the post of Opposition Leader because he was not an elected member of Israel’s Knesset. Gabbay offered the post to Livni, who was the leader of the party’s second largest faction.

Both Gabbay and Livni are rumoured to be attempting to form partnerships with the newly registered Israel Resilience party, founded by former IDF chief of staff and political newcomer Benny Gantz, who is polling strongly.

The announcement is the latest in a number of political shifts including the split of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, and the announcement that several Kulanu Party members would not seek re-election with the party.


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